As of May 2014, there were 840 physical therapist assistants licensed to practice in Mississippi. This number is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), indentifying physical therapist assisting as one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Mississippi is no exception, as the Bureau’s projections show the number of jobs for PTAs in the state is expected to increase by 41 percent during the ten-year period from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the state’s overall job growth rate. This translates to an average of 35 new PTA jobs becoming available in Mississippi each year during that interval.
In addition to a strong job market, aspiring PTAs in Mississippi also enjoy great earning potential with salaries that tend to be higher than elsewhere in the country. According to a 2014 BLS salary survey, the median yearly salary among PTAs in Mississippi was $46,270, nearly 18 percent higher than the national median of $39,430 that year.
Mississippi is the perfect place to earn a degree in physical therapist assisting. With four schools offering programs that meet state requirements for licensure and a fifth currently seeking accreditation, Mississippi has more eligible PTA programs than most other states.
Steps to Obtaining a Physical Therapist Assistant License in Mississippi
Becoming a licensed PTA in Mississippi begins by acquiring state licensure from the Mississippi State Board of Physical Therapy (MSBPT).
This simple guide will provide detailed guidance on how to become a licensed physical therapist assistant in Mississippi:
Step 1. Earn your Associate’s Degree from an Accredited School
As required by the MSBPT, the first step to becoming a PTA is to complete a two-year degree at a program that is recognized by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy.
There are four schools in Mississippi that offer physical therapist assistant programs, and an additional school that is currently seeking accreditation. PTA programs can be found in the following cities:
- Goodman (pending accreditation)
There are two different types of degrees in Mississippi you can choose from:
- Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AS)
Programs at these schools consist of both academic work and clinical learning experiences. Curriculum varies between the different programs, but you can expect coursework to include some variation of the following:
- Medical Conditions & Pathology
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Pathophysiological Conditions
- Physical Therapy Seminar
- Health Care Experience I & II
- Clinical Education I – IV
In compliance with Mississippi law, students in PTA programs are required to undergo a criminal background check before performing hands-on work in a clinical setting. Failing the background check would prohibit you from continuing your clinical education.
Step 2. Complete your Application for MSBPT Licensure
After completing your associate’s degree through an accredited program, you will be able to submit your application for state licensure. In order to qualify for a license to practice in Mississippi, you need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Your application for licensure will also serve as your application to sit for the NPTE.
To sit for the exam, you must first complete a current fingerprint/criminal history check. Start by contacting the board at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a fingerprint card and instructions. A fingerprint card will be sent to you after you pay the processing fee of $50.
Next, complete your State License Application with the Mississippi State Board of Physical Therapy (MSBPT) and submit it along with a passport-style photo and payment for the $300 licensing fee made payable to MSBPT.
Your application will be considered based on you meeting the following requirements:
- Be of good moral character
- Have graduated from a CAPTE-approved program for PTAs
- Graduates of non-accredited foreign programs must demonstrate a level of competency as that of a graduate of an accredited program
- Be a US citizen
- Included payment for the application fees along with other specified documents
- Completion of the Mississippi Jurisprudence Exam (attached to the application packet)
Temporary PTA licenses are available. These licenses are valid for a maximum of 90 days. Candidates may use these temporary licenses to practice in the interim between the time the application is approved and the time they pass the NPTE-PTA. After 90 days are up, temporary licenses are automatically upgraded to regular licenses pending application approval and a passing grade on the NPTE-PTA.
The review process for a state license application begins only after all applicable license requirements and fees are on file. It is usually completed within one to two days of receiving a completed application packet and all supporting documents.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
The last step before receiving your PTA license is to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs. The MSBPT will grant you access to the exam provided you meet the following prerequisites:
- Must not have previously failed the exam more than 5 times
- All required fees have been paid
- Have a valid social security number
- Passed the Board’s jurisprudence exam
Registration for the NPTE-PTA is done directly through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) website. There is a $400 registration fee for the physical therapist assistant exam. After registering, you will be instructed to schedule your exam with Prometric, the test administrator. There are three test centers located in Mississippi:
The PTA exam consists of 200 items developed to test the knowledge and skills required of entry-level physical therapist assistants.
These questions have been prepared by a wide variety of practicing PTs and PTAs across the country. Samples of content found on the exam include:
- Physical Therapy Data Collection
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment
- Non-System Domains
The Mississippi Board requires a minimum score of 600 on the exam to pass and be eligible for licensure.
Step 4. Begin your Career as a PTA in Mississippi
After passing the NPTE-PTA exam, the MSBPT will issue your license within three to seven days of receiving your score.
With a license in hand, you may begin working in any number of settings, from outpatient clinics specializing in orthopedics/sports medicine/physical therapy, to hospitals and inpatient rehab facilities, to schools and hospices, among many other potential workplaces.
As of November 2015, facilities in Mississippi hiring PTAs included but were not limited to (Shown here for illustrative purposes only and does not assure that jobs will be available):
- Therapy Management Corporation – Laurel
- Tara Therapy, LLC – Tupelo
- Deaconess Homecare – Natchez
- Promise Healthcare – Vicksburg
- Gentiva Health Services, Inc. – Flowood
- InSearch Medical – Jackson
- Aegis Therapies – Batesville
Step 5. Maintain your License with Mandatory Continued Education
Your PTA license will need to be renewed every two years. Your last name determines the year you will need to renew it:
- Last names beginning with A through L have a licensure period of July 1 through June 30 of even-numbered years
- Last names beginning with M through Z have a licensure period of July 1 through June 30 of odd-numbered years
At the end of each licensure period, you will receive a notice from the MSPBT informing you of the steps to take to renew your PTA license. A standard renewal application must be completed and filed, and you will need to pay a renewal fee of $475.
Along with the application and fee, you must also submit proof of your continuing education. Practicing PTAs must accrue 24 contact hours (CH) or 2.4 Continuing Education Units (CEU) during each active licensure period. The Mississippi Board has set regulations regarding continuing education:
- CH and CEU will not carry over between licensure periods
- At least 6 CH or .6 CEU must be related to in-clinic physical therapy
- PTAs are not allowed to take more than 12 CH or 1.2 CEU through online programs
- Licensees are required to take at least two hours of ethics as approved by the Board
- Clinical hours may be subject to review if the Board considers the proof of completion questionable
Applications, fees, and proof of continuing education can all be submitted online at the MSBPT website. All continuing education credits claimed by licensees are subject to random audits by the Board, so you are advised to keep detailed records of all contact hours.
If for any reason you decide not to renew your license, the MSBPT will allow you to list your license as inactive rather than renew it at the end of the licensure period. A licensee can stay inactive for up to six years, at which point the license must either be renewed following the above process or face expiration.